For Life, Dignity, Land Ownership and Defense of our Territory!/Catatumbo

The Communities of Lower Catatumbo declare that we are in a humanitarian
refugee camp!

( Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)

The Campesino Association of Thursday, May 14, 2009

The communities of the rural settlements La India and Morro Frío, belonging
to the municipality of Tibú; Caño Azul and the Sapadhana Cooperative of the
municipality of Convención; and Caño Mariela, Caño Escondido, Caño Tomás
and, El Suspiro, of the municipality of Teorama, declare that we are in a
humanitarian refuge camp in the settlement of Caño Tomás in the district of
Fronteras de Teorama of the municipality of Teorama in the department of
Norte de Santander (Colombia), beginning April 29, 2009.

This action is in fact one response more of the organized community in its
legitimate right to peaceful resistance to avoid the displacement of
hundreds of  us campesinos and campesinas who economically depend on
illicit use crops [a euphemism for coca production—SC] to survive.

Fumigations with glyphosphate, compulsory manual eradication carried out in
recent days, and the lack of political will of the government of President
Uribe to come to a definitive solution to the problem of coca in the region
with the organized communities, once again demonstrate the absence of a
real economic and social policy that tries to resolve the problems of the
campesinos of Cataumbo, through a solution other than war to the problems
of illicit crops.

 We, the campesino communities of Catatumbo, in the face of the lack of
attention by the government to the different necessities, have felt
ourselves obliged to survive by cultivating coca, but on repeated occasions
we have expressed our willingness to dialog and come to an agreement with
the government over a real proposal for a substitute crop, respect for
human rights and a dignified rural life, but the only response we have
received has always been state violence.

Although coca cultivation was introduced into the Catatumbo region at the
end of the 80s, massive cultivation became widespread in the beginning of
the 90s as a result of the fateful and anti-people economic opening, a
policy imposed by the IMF and World Bank, and carried out to the letter by
the current government, at that time headed by Cesar Gaviria Trujillo,
bringing as a consequence more misery and poverty in the Colombian
countryside and obliging the campesinos of Catatumbo and other regions of
the country to search for other alternative sources of subsistence,
different from traditional legal crops, and to dedicate themselves to the
production of coca as the only source of income for subsistence. En
Catatumbo, the settlement of La Gabarra, of the municipality of Tibú, was
sanctified as the principal epicenter of coca production.

In 1996, the peasants, asphyxiated by economic policies and the abandonment
of the state in terms of social investment in the region, decided to march
on the city of Cúcuta to demand of the national government improvements in
the conditions of living of the communities and infrastructure investment.
Through this great mobilization, in which more than 20 thousand campesinos
participated, they achieved a number of agreements with the national
government that supported the implementation of programs and commitment of
resources for social and sustainable development in the region. With the
signing of these agreements, the campesinos returned to their settlements
in the expectation that the government would carry out what had been agreed

In the face of the failure to carry out the agreements arrived at in 1996
between the government and the campesinos, and with the threat of
establishing and anti-narcotics base in the region, the campesinos felt
obliged to mobilize again, an in 1998, there was another exodus, with the
participation of more than 30 thousand campesinos, who occupied the road
that goes from Tibú to Cúcuta for more than 30 days, paralyzing this entire
zone of the department and once again obliging the government to sit down
with the campesinos at the negotiating table. This time the agreements were
that a negotiating panel would be created with representatives of the
government and representatives of the campesinos, who would design a
development plan that would bring together the necessities of the
campesinos communities. This was called the Development and Peace Plan for
the region of Catatumbo.

However, while the pertinent steps were taken in the process of designing
and formulating that development plan, the paramilitaries came into the
region beginning in May, 1999, with the complicity by commission or
omission of the state, which left in less than five years a figure of more
than 400 leaders murdered and more than ten thousand campesinos dead,
without counting the disappeared, who might reach to a similar or even
higher figure. This led to the design and formulation of the development
plan being carried out without the participation of the campesinos
delegates, who were systematically annihilated.

Paradoxically, the consolidation of paramilitarism happened precisely at
the same time as the implementation of Plan Colombia in the region. While
the Catatumbo Bloc, under the command of Salvatore Mancuso, and the
Northern Bloc, under the command of Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, aka “Jorge 40,”
massacred, displaced tortured, raped and disappeared campesinos, and stole
all their belongings and goods, on the other hand they monopolized the coca
trade, this period being that of the greatest expansion of coca cultivation
in the region, under the control of the paramilitaries, without any
civilian or military institution of the state doing absolutely anything. On
the contrary, the army and the police were always a direct support for the
paramilitaries, sometimes openly and at other times secretly.

With the demobilization of paramilitary groups in 2004 and 2005, the region
went through a period of intense militarization. The military forces rose
from having 1,500 men to ten thousand, a situation what made the political,
social and armed conflict more acute.
Far from fighting the narco-traffic, Plan Colombia was consolidated as a
counter-insurgency plan, and as a plan to exterminate the campesinos, who
after having returned to the region because of the supposed demobilization
of the paramilitaries, have been affected by the constant human rights
violations and the systematic infraction of International Humanitarian Law,
today at the hands of the military forces. It’s the case of the famous
so-called “false positives:” from June of 2006 to October of 2008, 68
campesinos were murdered and presented as guerrillas who had been brought

The anti-people and reactionary government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, within
the framework of its policy of “democratic security,” wants to impose a
rapid solution to the political, social and armed conflict in the region
without creating any social or economic reforms, through a growing North
American military intervention, and behind the banner of the war on drugs.

The second phase of the implementation of Plan Colombia, the fumigation,
the forced manual eradication and the imposition of cuts in social programs
through Social Action, show that this policy of aggression against the
campesinos has as its true goals political, economic, social and military
control of the population, the appropriation of our lands in order to
guarantee the development of oil extraction, of exploration and creation of
open-pit coal mines, the implementation of monocultures like oil palm,
genetically altered cacao, bitter cassava, rubber, sugar cane genetically
altered plantains, among others. These do not develop into a proposal for
alternative development to be gradually substituted for the illegal use
crops, but rather favor the imposition of an obligatory development
centered on the interests of the great multinational firms.

In the face of this critical panorama, and in an act of peaceful
resistance, we campesinos and campesinas of Catatumbo have decided not to
abandon our territory and to struggle to defend it, we oppose once again
fumigations with glyphosate because of its serious environmental, social
and economic consequences and do not accept manual eradication of the
illegal use crops. We continue proposing a solution to the problem of coca
agreed upon by the government and the organized communities.

The government cannot continue in its attitude of resolving a social
problem through repression; so the solution has to come through economic
and social investment in the region, and not military means.

For all these reasons, the Campesino Association of Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT),
an organization that works for the integral defense of the human rights of
the Catatumbo campesinos, calls on the national and international community
for solidarity with the humanitarian camp, and we invite the rest of the
campesino communities of Catatumbo and other regions of the country to join
this alternative of peaceful resistance.

In the midst of state violence, life blooms in Catatumbo!

Supporting Organizations.

Antena Mutante
Asociación Agraria de Santander
Asociación Campesina de Arauca
Asociación Campesina del Valle del río Cimitarra
Asociación de Desplazados Asentados en el Municipio de Barrancabermeja
Asociación Regional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado del Magdalena Medio
Bloque de Unidad Sindical de Santander – Central Unitaria de Trabajadores –
 Centro de Estudios de la Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Industrial de
 Colectivo Antígona, Universidad Nacional
 Colectivo Brecha, Universidad Nacional
 Colectivo Huasipungo (Nueva York)
 Colectivo Integración Rural, Universidad Nacional
 Colectivo Pensamiento Latinoamericano
 Colectivo Siembra, Universidad Nacional
 Colectivo Vivo Arte
 Coordinación Nacional de Organizaciones Agrarias y Populares
 Corporación Acción Humanitaria para la Convivencia y la Paz del Nordeste
 Euskal Herria Sozialista
 Federación de Estudiantes Universitarios, Universidad Industrial de
 Humanidad Vigente Corporación Jurídica
 Kimetz Liburuak (Euskal Herria)
 Movimiento Nacional de Victimas de Crímenes de Estado, Capítulo Norte de
 Periódico El Turbión
 Templando El Acero Artitaletxea (Euskal Herria)

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621

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